Class warfare? Bring it on

Obama tells plutocrats ready to fight over his plans: "So am I." Plus: Will Maureen Dowd ever let Obama be a man?

Published March 2, 2009 2:01PM (EST)

I found 470 mentions of Obama and "class warfare" in Google news just since Feb. 3. The L.A. Times may have been the most alarmist of mainstream sites: "Obama's budget: Taxing for fairness or class warfare?" on Friday. The same day David Horowitz's right-wing Front Page Magazine framed the question as a statement: "The Budget as Class Warfare." Personally I've heard the claim out of the mouths of MSNBC's Michelle Bernard and former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich on "Hardball" this past week. But they're Republicans paid to spout talking points. Why are mainstream reporters pushing this story line?

Media Matters captured the AP's Jennifer Loven asking White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, "Are you all worried at all that that kind of argument, that 'class warfare' argument could sink the ability to get some of these big priorities through?" Maybe the worst offender Media Matters found was Politico's Jeanne Cummings, whose "Class warfare returns to D.C." dripped with elitism as well as poor economic fundamentals.

"Obama's creative juices seemed to run dry as he turned Thursday to his party's most predictable revenue enhancer: taxing the wealthy," Cummings began, going on to lament, "Some economists argue that the anticipation of a return to higher tax rates may be enough to thwart critical investments and purchases." But she didn't quote one.  Then we got this chestnut: "And who are the people out there today with the cash -- and confidence -- to spend? Most often they are people and families with earnings ranked in the top echelons and who will be subject to the Obama tax hike."

I'd say the class warfare is coming from media moguls like Politico backer Robert Albritton, who's funding such lamebrained and ideological reporting. Give that woman a raise!

I'm not shocked by the media taking to the barricades on behalf of the rich. I'm pleasantly surprised by liberals fighting back. I enjoyed the New York Times piece about Ralph Neas' new outfit, National Coalition on Health Care, that's pushing aggressive reform. It remains to be seen whether a group with corporate backing can truly agitate for the fundamental change needed, but with labor and other advocates at the table, the big questions will come up.

And I'm thrilled to hear President Obama ready for battle. I don't think anything has made me happier than what he said yesterday in his weekly radio address.

"I know that the insurance industry won’t like the idea that they’ll have to bid competitively to continue offering Medicare coverage, but that’s how we’ll help preserve and protect Medicare and lower health care costs for American families. I know that banks and big student lenders won’t like the idea that we’re ending their huge taxpayer subsidies, but that’s how we’ll save taxpayers nearly $50 billion and make college more affordable. I know that oil and gas companies won’t like us ending nearly $30 billion in tax breaks, but that’s how we’ll help fund a renewable energy economy that will create new jobs and new industries.

"In other words, I know these steps won’t sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this:

"So am I.

While I have concerns with Obama on the civil liberties and "state secrets" fronts (thanks to Glenn Greenwald for all his great work there), I've been impressed with the president's passion and spirit as he readies to defend his budget. That's why I was so disappointed to see Maureen Dowd slap him again today in her high school mean girl way. She has a problem with Obama: She can't ever let him be a man.

Remember a year ago, when he was Obambi, cowering before two strong women: his "emasculating" wife Michelle and "dominatrix" Hillary Clinton? A couple of months later, he was a skittish "starlet obsessing about his svelte wasteline" (anticipating McCain's conflating Obama with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears by months). Well, Obambi won't fly now: He and Michelle have become the country's Lovers-in-Chief, with their every night out a PSA for Marital Hotness. Meanwhile, he was smart enough (and man enough) to make Clinton his secretary of state, and with his regular pickup basketball games and his boys night out at the Bulls-Wizards game this weekend, he's sure not looking like a skittish starlet.

So can Obama get to be a man now? Nope. In Sunday's Dowd column, "Spock on the Bridge," he's Mr. Spock from "Star Trek," the not quite mortal male, all brains, no passion. Dowd mocks Obama's "Vulcan-like logic and detachment" in selling his recovery and budget plans.

It makes no sense to me: I found Obama passionate, even angry at times, in his speech to Congress Tuesday night, and in his Saturday address. Beyond his recent "Give 'em hell" moments, I consistently find Dowd's symbolism very creepy: Why does our first black president have to be an emasculated baby deer, a starlet or a detached not-human Vulcan? When does he get to be a man? Does anybody have a problem with that idea?


By Joan Walsh

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